Sentencing murder: Boyle v HM Advocate SLT 29

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


It is common knowledge that the sentence for murder is life.1 But while the
symbolism – of a life confined for a life destroyed – is strong, convicted murderers do not necessarily remain in prison for the whole of their natural lives.2 The advent of the “punishment part” or (in England) “tariff”, constituting the minimum period of detention necessary to represent retribution and deterrence, while intended to express punitive principles, also affirms that release prior to death is always considered, even if the period actually spent in prison appears to be increasing.3 The punitive nature of the punishment part is particularly well illustrated by the tariff’s history in England and Wales.4 The power to set the tariff initially constituted an encroachment on the judicial function by the Home Secretary,5 raising justified fears that tariffs were being set for political purposes.6 Tariffs have not become any less punitive but they must now be determined by the judiciary.7
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-477
Number of pages5
JournalEdinburgh Law Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010


  • sentencing
  • murder
  • prisoners
  • punishment


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